Author Archives: naturallyjax

January 18, 2021

Very early this morning as we were heading through the neighborhood on the way to the Bear Creek Greenbelt with the dog, we heard and saw a pair of great horned owls dueting at the top of the tallest tree in our neighborhood.  We didn’t see a single soul on our walk, though we did see a couple of dozen Canada geese in the pond that never freezes.

A little later in the morning I took a leisurely walk in the greenbelt by myself.  I saw our resident pair of red-tailed hawks.  Here’s the female:

Female red-tailed hawk (notice the band on the right leg)

I pointed out the female hawk to a fellow pedestrian, who mentioned that she’d seen a bald eagle, for the first time, in Salida the other day.  I remarked that a bald eagle had been spotted regularly in the greenbelt since New Year’s, but I hadn’t seen it yet.  We chatted about how much time we’d been spending in the greenbelt since the coronavirus hit, how it has become a sort of a refuge to us, a place for serenity.

Not five minutes after we parted I spotted a bald eagle flying overhead:

Bald eagle

In Bear Creek two male hooded mergansers and a female common goldeneye were diving for a meal along the icy edges of the creek.

Hooded merganser

Common goldeneye

I was on my way home when I ran into what I assumed to be a fellow birder–a gentleman with a pair of binoculars and a telephoto lens.  As it turns out, he was new to that section of the greenbelt, and he asked if I had seen the winter wren.  Not today, I said ruefully.  I showed him where I’d seen it in days past, and where four birders saw two of them yesterday.  I also showed him the pond that never freezes which, uncharacteristically, had only a handful of mallards.

We didn’t see anything too spectacular–a handful of song sparrows, a red-tailed hawk–but a walk through the greenbelt is nearly always restorative.

Not long after I returned home, I glanced out the back door and saw sixteen magpies, four black-capped chickadees, a northern flicker, and a Steller’s jay, all in a small piece of the greenbelt.

 

 

January 17, 2021

This morning we headed into the Bear Creek Greenbelt shortly after dawn.  It was just below freezing, and the sky was overcast.

Even though the light wasn’t very good, my better half (a.k.a. Super Spotter) spotted a winter wren and a swamp sparrow in quick succession:

Winter wren

Swamp sparrow

Both were foraging near the pedestrian bridge.

My better half also spotted this mallard drake with a plastic six pack ring wrapped around its neck and bill:

Mallard drake with plastic six pack ring wrapped around its neck and bill

We were able to watch it walk and fly, but we don’t know how well it can feed.

My better half also spotted this manky mallard and common goldeneye:

Manky mallard

Common goldeneye

Finally, my better half also spotted this muskrat:

Muskrat

As for me, I picked out several birds by ear, including two white-breasted nuthatches, several black-capped chickadees, a red-winged blackbird, and a belted kingfisher.  All I have to show for it is this distant shot of the belted kingfisher:

Belted kingfisher

 

 

January 16, 2021

This morning dawned mild, with the temperature around 40 degrees and the skies overcast.  As we walked down the Bear Creek Trail, we entered a “birdtown” with several black-capped chickadees calling.  Then my better half spotted a small bird climbing up the trunk of a tree.  Our first brown creeper in the greenbelt!

Brown creeper

Near the pond that never freezes a song sparrow posed obligingly:

Song sparrow

Yesterday on our afternoon walk we saw a remarkable sight:  a female hooded merganser being chased by a muskrat.  They were in the beaver pond by the pedestrian bridge.  From the bridge we saw the hooded merganser zig zagging.  When we looked closer, we saw the muskrat behind it, tracking its zig zags.

January 14, 2021

The howling wind woke me up last night, and today was a very windy day!  During our early morning walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt (low 30s, but quite cold with the wind) we startled a great blue heron that was just east of the bridge, but we didn’t see any other creatures nearby.  The pond that never freezes had a few dozen Canada geese.

After work we bundled up again and took a walk in the greenbelt.  Three hooded mergansers were in the beaver pond west of the bridge.  Here’s a pair:

Hooded mergansers

And for the first time this season we saw a pair of wood ducks in the greenbelt.  They were hanging out in pond that never freezes with 20 Canada geese and 80 mallards:

Wood duck (male)

Wood duck (female)

Another shot of the male:

Wood duck (male)

January 12, 2021

This morning on our early morning walk with the dog in the Bear Creek Greenbelt it was very dark (new moon) and chilly (temperature in the low teens).  At the pond that never freezes we saw dozens of Canada geese and we heard, but could hardly see, several mallards.  On the back home, we saw a raccoon tucked up in a tree, fast asleep.

On our walk after work, my better half spotted a sharp-shinned hawk:

Sharp-shinned hawk

At the pond that never freezes there were 100 mallards, and one each of a (male) gadwall, (female) hooded merganser, and (female) common goldeneye.  The only Canada geese we saw were flying overhead.

Common goldeneye

January 10, 2021

Yesterday afternoon it began snowing lightly and when we got up this morning an inch had accumulated.  The sky was overcast, the temperature 28 degrees, the moon nearly new.   We headed into the Bear Creek Greenbelt at first light but before dawn, before other people began to stir, to see what animals had left their tracks in the snow.  We saw coyote tracks right away, as well as rabbit tracks, squirrel tracks, raccoon tracks, and beaver slide/drag tracks.

We were also hoping to catch sight of the mink.  We had just crossed the bridge to the north side of Bear Creek when my better half spotted a beaver near the beaver lodge.  A muskrat joined it.  I was far away and the light was dim, but this shot gives perspective into the relative size of each of these creatures:

Muskrat and beaver

As the morning unfolded, we also gained perspective into the relationship between these two.  The beaver slid into the water and disappeared, leaving the muskrat on the log.  Then the mink appeared, upstream to the west near a fallen log.  It walked downstream, on the ice, to the newer of the two “beaver deceivers.”

Mink near the “beaver deceiver” intake

The mink slipped back under the ice.  When I looked back at the log near the beaver dam, the muskrat had (wisely) disappeared, but the beaver was back.  Then the muskrat crawled out of the water to join the beaver on the log, slipped back in the water, and then swiftly got back on the log behind the beaver.

At this point, my better half spotted a winter wren hopping around the dam.  I switched my attention to the bird.  Here’s the best shot I could manage:

Winter wren

When I looked back up again, the mink had reappeared near the intake to the original beaver deceiver.  Then it slipped back under the ice, swam upstream, and reappeared near the log where the beaver and muskrat had been.

Mink

Then the beaver popped up behind the mink:

Beaver popping up behind mink

And then the beaver moved closer and stopped:

Beaver parked behind mink

The mink dove:

Almost immediately, a muskrat popped up downstream in front of the log.  The beaver watched it swim by:

But then the muskrat turned back, climbed on a log, and the two faced each other:

Muskrat and beaver looking at each other

The beaver submerged, leaving the muskrat on the log.  The mink reappeared upstream.  It walked across the ice to the north bank:

Mink

By this time, the beaver had taken up a spot in front of the dam with a clear view of activity upstream.

Beaver in front of dam

And the muskrat stayed on the log, close to the south bank, and chewed a few twigs:

Muskrat

There seeming to be equilibrium, we continued on our walk.  My better half, star spotter of the day, picked out this female common goldeneye:

Common goldeneye

We saw a female belted kingfisher and a few mallards.  At the pond that never freezes, Canada geese had taken over from the mallards:

Canada geese

A song sparrow was noisily flitting along the eastern edge of the pond that never freezes.

As we made our way back toward the bridge, approaching from the east, we saw lots of beaver slide/drag marks between Bear Creek and the woods to the north.

Back at the dam, the mink was peeking out, seeing if the coast was clear:

Mink

It eventually crawled out of the dam and slipped back under the ice, only to emerge upstream again:

Mink

When we left the area, only this muskrat was out:

Muskrat

 

 

 

January 9, 2021

On this cloudy, chilly (mid 20s) morning, we saw the mink in the Bear Creek Greenbelt:

Mink next to the “beaver deceiver” by the dam

It slipped into the water by the “beaver deceiver” intake, swam beneath the ice, and popped up upstream:

Mink

January 6, 2020

Here’s one of the three Wilson’s snipes I saw at Chatfield State Park today:

Wilson’s snipe

And here’s a muskrat from our afternoon walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt today:

Muskrat

January 4, 2021

Today I took an early lunch walk with a friend in the Bear Creek Greenbelt.  We saw several red-tailed hawks.  Here’s the first one we saw, the female half of the resident pair:

Red-tailed hawk (note the leg band–it’s the resident female)

We also got sustained looks at a great blue heron and a pair of hooded mergansers:

Great blue heron

Hooded mergansers

Here’s the penultimate red-tailed hawk we saw, an immature individual with a field mouse:

Red-tailed hawk

January 3, 2021

By midmorning it became apparent that this is red-tailed hawk day.  Right around dawn  we saw one flying east just after we stepped out the back door to go walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt.  A couple of minutes later, we spotted another one sitting at the top of the tallest tree in our neighborhood.  Down in the greenbelt, two red-tailed hawks–probably our resident pair–were on their usual perch atop the loudspeaker:

Red-tailed hawks

As we came back into our neighborhood, a red-tailed hawk flew out of our next door neighbor’s tree with prey.  As we walked closer, we saw tufts of rabbit fur blowing along the sidewalk  Magpies descended on the tree branch where the hawk had been and finished off what was left of the rabbit.

A little later in the morning, we could see a red-tailed hawk from our back deck:

Red-tailed hawk

Here’s one of the half dozen song sparrows we saw on our walk in the greenbelt.  In the early morning, they like to feed on a dirt path near a marshy area that’s just east of the pond that never freezes.

Song sparrow

At midway we rode our bikes to Bear Creek Lake Park.  At the entrance to Fox Hollow, we saw a red-tailed hawk high in a tree overlooking a frozen pond on the golf course.  And while we were climbing Mt. Carbon we saw a red-tailed hawk perched on a utility pole overlooking the Homestead golf course.

In mid-afternoon, as we were returning from the grocer’s, we saw another red-tailed hawk perched in a tree in the neighborhood, looking out toward the greenbelt.